Jonah Goldberg
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You may have noticed that denouncing the "failed policies of the past" has become the official catechism of the Democratic Party.

Heck, it wouldn't surprise me if at DNC headquarters "gesundheit" is out as the polite response to a sneeze and tsk-tsking the rise in nose-tickling particulates thanks to the bankrupt policies of the Bush administration is in.

So, you'd think if everything Bush has done is wrong, then a reversal of his position would be right.

Wrong again. We didn't hear applause from Democrats this week when President Bush "reversed" his "longstanding position" (in the words of The New York Times) on offshore drilling.

Nearly thirty years ago, Jimmy Carter's windfall-profits tax kicked in, making domestic oil exploration more difficult and expensive. In 1981, Congress passed a moratorium on offshore drilling that has stayed in place ever since. In 1990, the first President Bush signed an executive order reinforcing the ban on coastal oil exploration. And, until this week, the current President Bush supported the ban.

And yet, no cheers for Bush when he abandoned his failed policy of the last eight years. Instead, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid sniffed that these were more of the same "old ideas." Odd.

And when John McCain similarly reversed himself, the Democrats whistled the same tune again.

"John McCain's plan to simply drill our way out of our energy crisis is the same misguided approach backed by President Bush that has failed our families for too long and only serves to benefit the big oil companies," declared the Obama campaign.

Now, it's fair to say that more drilling is the approach President Bush wanted. And it's even defensible for Obama to call it misguided. But the salient fact is that Bush didn't get what he wanted because he was constrained by the real failed policies of the past.

Indeed, we constantly hear we can't drill our way to lower gas prices, but how does anybody know when we haven't even tried?

Despite enormous improvements in extraction technology, the amount of oil produced domestically in America went down in the last eight years. It went down in the 1990s. It went down in the 1980s. In fact, it's been trending down since the 1970s, back when Barack Obama's "new" ideas seemed fresh coming from Jimmy Carter. Today, we produce about as much domestic oil as we did in the late 1940s, even though we keep finding, but not utilizing, more proven reserves.

That hardly sounds like a country that's been dedicated to "drilling our way" to anything. The issue isn't just oil. Gas prices largely hinge on refining capacity. But, as John McCain observed this week, "There's so much regulation of the industry that the last American refinery was built when Jerry Ford was president."

A lot has changed since Barack Obama was 13. No one knew what an iPod, e-mail address, Web browser, CD, DVD or Post-It Note was. Fax machines were cutting edge, the space shuttle was a pipe dream and cloning was science fiction. Global cooling, not warming, was the fashionable doomsday scenario.

And yet, we act as if technology has remained frozen since the days when it made sense to "dial" a phone number.

So much for the supposedly failed policies of the past. What of the winning policies of the future?

When they want to seem mainstream, anti-carbon crusaders insist that we must achieve "energy independence" to "end our addiction on Middle Eastern oil."

This makes it sound like their real motive is common sense or national security. We're not anti-oil, we just don't want to fund our enemies. That sounds reasonable, and it is a legitimate position -- it's just not the one they actually hold.

If energy independence were their real goal, not only would oil, coal and nuclear be on the table, but you'd hear more lamentations about our "addiction" to Canadian oil -- a bigger source than Saudi Arabia.

Instead we are treated to an endless stream of intellectual jibber-jabber and nonsensical argy-bargy. We need to be energy independent, but we can't use the energy sources we have. We need to switch to ethanol fast, but we can't import cheaper ethanol from Brazil. We must increase gas taxes to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, but when gas prices go up for any other reason, it's a crisis, even a crime. We're told we'll get nowhere drilling our way to independence or lower prices, as if windmills will do the job (stop laughing).

We shouldn't fight "wars for oil," but the self-imposed embargo on our own oil makes us even more dependent on the foreign oil we're allegedly going to war over. And, of course: We're told to reject the failed policies of the past, when the policies that have failed are the real old ones merely being sold as new.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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